Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Jai’Shawn Cattling’s senior year at the campus of Westbrook Christian may have ended prematurely due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but his post-high school future recently received a shot in arm.
Last month, Cattling (pictured above) was selected as the Bryant-Jordan Foundation’s Class 2A, Region 6 Achievement winner. Along with 51 other high school seniors across the state, Cattling will receive $3,500 in scholarships for college. The state Bryant-Jordan winners will be announced April 13.
Named after University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Auburn University football coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan, the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Program awards college scholarships to high school senior student-athletes from 52 regions across Alabama.
The Achievement Award honors high school senior student-athletes who have achieved success relative to his or her ability or who may have overcome an unusual hardship. Selection considerations include academic performance relative to measured ability, sport involvement, athletic honors, student leadership and civic/church leadership.
“All my life I’ve worked hard and put in the work that needed to be put in,” said Cattling. “Being an underdog when I started here in ninth grade and having to work my way up the chain really motivated me to do better.”
With Cattling on the varsity roster since his freshman year of 2016, the Warriors have gone 26-21 with three state playoff appearances. This past season, Cattling helped Westbrook go 8-4 and win its first postseason game since 2010, a 25-22 road victory over No. 1 seed Aliceville. He was named to the All-Messenger second team and the Class 2A, All-Region 6 honorable mention team after finishing with 77 tackles and two sacks.
“It was really something we were destined for,” he said. “We played our hearts out as seniors, so hopefully we set an example and next year’s seniors will do the same thing. We wanted to set the bar high, and I’m proud that we were able to do that, not just in football but all of our other sports.
Although he coached for only one season, Westbrook head football coach Drew Noles said that Cattling was a vital contributor both through performance and leadership.
“Attitude-wise, Jai’shawn really made a big stride between his junior and senior year. He was a great linebacker and good leader for us. I also was really pleased with his presence in the locker room. He missed four games with an injury, which was huge for us because he was one of our best athletes. He’s going to be a great loss for our team, both on the field and off the field.”
In addition to his Bryant-Jordan Foundation scholarship, part of Cattling’s college education will be supplemented by the Big Oak Boys Ranch in Gadsden, where he is a resident. Cattling said that Alabama A&M has expressed interest.
“I have a good work ethic, and I’m just waiting for that one school to step up and say, “Hey, this is what we’ve got for you.’ I really want to continue my education.”
Westbrook athletic director and head baseball coach Matt Kennedy coached Cattling in junior high football.
“Jai’shawn played some linebacker and some running back for me, and he had the same motor then as he does now. From where he came from to where he is now, I’ve seen a huge transformation in him. I think the last regional [Bryant-Jordan] winner from Westbrook was Jacob Mayfield (in 2011), so it’s quite an accomplishment.”
Cattling already is prepared if his post-Westbrook football career does not pan out. Over the past two years, he obtained his certificate in welding while taking classes at Gadsden State.
“I have a lot of options, so we’ll see where it leads,” he said.